The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Blu-ray Review

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

I have a lot of friends who will run a mile if a film carries even the faintest whiff of fantasy.

Some of these naysayers were, I must say, won over by Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy which brought a certain level of gravitas to the whole genre.

But it’s even money that the same crowd might just turn their noses up at talking dragons, giant spiders and a man who can turn into a bear.

All of which The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug delivers aplenty.

At any rate, the film’s title will probably keep the non-initiated at bay, doubtlessly generating Quantum Of Solace levels of confusion.

The What-olation Of Who picks up from where we left our plucky hobbit and his thirteen-strong dwarf company as they continue their quest to reclaim Erebor from that pesky dragon.

The pace is fast and the film is certainly a lot of fun. Memorable set pieces include the riverside barrel chase, a forest fight and the climactic inner-mountain battle.

Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography is as sumptuous as ever, and Team Jackson ensure that all the characters pulse with just the right level of familiarity: the elves still leap about like balletic hair models, and the dwarves still bristle like a pack of disgruntled Rangers fans.

Martin Freeman, as Bilbo, continues to build the case for one of the most spot-on castings of all time, whilst Aiden Turner’s dwarf shaped Kili enjoys an expanded sub-plot. And Luke Evans steps in to provide Aragorn-style support as Bard of Laketown.

Which brings us to Smaug, surely the main draw for fans of the novel.

Benedict Cumberbatch, a name worthy of a hobbit, lends his barely recognisable tones to the titular dragon, which is as impressively realised as current CGI allows.

But, crucially, Smaug is bestowed with a feature which most special effects have the tendency to overlook.

Character.

The dragon is avaricious, bitter and oscillates wildly between chilling calmness and bellowing rage.

A bit like an investment banker.

Who can breathe fire.

And the film includes something which the book missed: a suitable showdown between the dwarves and the dragon.

Admittedly this last showdown has almost too many effects thrown at the screen to be truly engaging.

But it seems an appropriate plot point to be addressed, given that the next film is looking likely to be an all-out royal rumble between the entire population of Middle Earth.

Tolkien purists will probably be irked by deviations from the source material, such as the gratuitous inclusion of everyone’s favourite catwalk elf, Legolas, and the creation of completely new characters like Evangeline Lilly’s warrior Tauriel.

And the film does end a little suddenly, if not cliffhanger-ly.

This being a Jackson film, I’d actually expected more than the running time of two and a half hours. But hey-ho.

If you enjoyed the first Hobbit entry, and are a fan of Jackson’s take on the franchise in general, this film should hit the spot nicely.

Conor Brennan

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